WHILE the threat of Covid causing a third consecutive match to be postponed has not completely subsided, Glasgow Warriors head coach Danny Wilson is quietly confident about being able to get a team on the park for this Saturday night’s United Rugby Championship clash against the Ospreys at Scotstoun.
Warriors have been out of action since their excellent European Champions Cup win over Exeter Chiefs on 18th December due to an outbreak of the virus within their squad, meaning their usual festive double-header matches against Edinburgh will now need to be rescheduled to some point before the end of the 2021-22 season,
It has been a frustrating period for Wilson and his team, who felt they were finally beginning to build some momentum following a patchy start to the season, but they returned to training on Monday and are now looking forward to this Saturday’s match as the ideal build-up to their return match against the Chiefs at Sandy Park the following weekend.
“Things are as back to normal as it can be,” said the coach. “There is still bits and pieces going on but it’s a lot better than we were, so having that firebreak is a positive thing in that sense.
“For us, the ideal situation would have been to keep going as we were hitting some form and we had good run of games together coming up, but I am confident that we can pick up that form up again straight away, and hopefully this next run of games will allow us to really start building momentum.
“Ospreys will be strong – they will want to play as they have missed a few games, just as we want to play as we have missed a few games – so it will be two strong teams that will go at it,” he added. “It makes for quite an exciting game, where fourth plays fifth in the league.
“If we win, we jump into the top four which is where we want to be, so there is a lot riding on this match. It is a massive game and then we are back into two European games.”
Wilson acknowledged that the virus is so prevalent throughout society at the moment that it is almost inevitable that both his and the opposition team will have personnel missing this weekend. However, he pointed out that the current 10-day isolation period in Scotland means that he faces a tougher challenge getting his best possible team out compared to Toby Booth, his Ospreys counterpart, who is dealing with a seven-day isolation requirement in Wales.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to give a Covid update at lunchtime today, when it is widely anticipated that she will bring the self-isolation period down to seven days, in line with the other territories in the UK, but if that doesn’t happen then Wilson fears he may be forced to leave several players who have not had time to get back up to speed out of his team.
“We are lateral flow testing every day and we are PCR testing a couple of times a week as a minimum in the lead up to the game,” explained Wilson. “The problem is we still get the dribs and drabs of people having to isolate for 10 days, and if the dribs and drabs come in a position where you are short or don’t have real depth in it can cause real problems.
“You are always going to have a percentage of injuries and that can be between 10 and 20 percent injuries, and on top of that it is the vast amount of covid issues, and the big thing for me which is very different to elsewhere in the UK is the fact we have to have the boys who have a household contact isolating for ten days.
“Number-wise, I couldn’t confirm [how many players are still isolating] at the moment. There are some boys coming out of isolation in the next 24-48 hours but there are one or two who will be a bit later.
“And what we’re finding is that with 10 days of not doing anything, we’ve got to make sure they’re conditioned and ready to go again.
“If they come out the day of the game or the day before it, they’re not going to be available for that game even though they’re probably medically fit to play.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s adult club teams have been told that they can opt to postpone this weekend’s league fixtures in response to the threat posed by spiralling Covid numbers. There is no requirement for both teams to be in agreement over any postponements, but it is hoped that a reasonable and cooperative approach is adopted. Previously, clubs could only postpone without risking sanction if there was a Covid outbreak in their squad.
“This has been a tough decision as we try to find a balance between looking out for each other and our responsibilities to wider society during the current rise in Covid numbers and, at the same time, not being overly dogmatic,” said Gavin Scott, Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development.
“Training and playing rugby are still considered a low-risk activity from the guidance we have received from the Scottish Government and public health experts, so, as part of that balance, what we are saying to clubs today is you can still train and play this weekend, as long as you ensure any activity is in line with our current Return to Rugby measures and Scottish Government guidance.